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Data collected from 774 U.S. colleges, universities, and higher education foundations for the 2019 NACUBO-TIAA Study of Endowments show that participating institutions’ endowments returned an average of 5.3 percent (net of fees) during fiscal year 2019 (July 1, 2018 – June 30, 2019). However, due in part to strong 10-year returns, three quarters of institutions increased spending from their endowments to support students and faculty, with an average increase of more than $2 million.

Collectively, the 774 participating institutions held more than $630 billion in endowment assets as of June 30, 2019. The median endowment among these participants was $144.4 million.

The average one-year investment return on these assets dropped from 8.2 percent in FY18 to 5.3 percent in FY19. However, the average 10-year endowment return reached 8.4 percent, surpassing institutions’ long-term average return objective of 7 percent for the first time in a decade. This reflects the strong stock market recovery since the 2008 financial crisis.


These stronger 10-year average annual returns allowed more than three quarters of the participating institutions to increase the amount spent from their endowments to support students and faculty, with an average increase of more than $2 million. In total, institutions withdrew almost $22 billion from their endowments to support campus operations (not including investment fees and operating expenses).

On average, endowment withdrawals accounted for 13 percent of campuses’ total operating budgets. Schools used 49 percent of these endowment spending dollars to support student scholarships and other financial aid programs, and 17 percent for academic tutoring and other related functions.


A press release, public tables from the 2019 NACUBO-TIAA Study of Endowments, and a NACUBO in Brief podcast episode are available for free.

The comprehensive final report will be available for purchase by March 2020. Once available, the online product will provide instant access to results of the study. Colleges, universities, and affiliated foundations that participated in the study will receive complimentary access to the final report. 


Ken Redd

Senior Director, Research and Policy Analysis


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